“exousia”

Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: eks-ü-sē’-ä’
  • Strongs Concordance: #G1849
    • power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
      1. leave or permission
    • physical and mental power
      1. the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises
    • the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
    • the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)
      1. universally
      2. specifically
      3. metonymically
      4. a sign of the husband’s authority over his wife
      5. the sign of regal authority, a crown
    • the veil with which propriety required a women to cover herself
    • a thing subject to authority or rule
      1. jurisdiction
    • one who possesses authority
      1. a ruler, a human magistrate
      2. the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates
    • the power of judicial decisions
    • of authority to manage domestic affairs
    • authority over mankind
  • Appears 102 times in 93 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations
    • “authority” (65x)
    • “power”, “right” (11x each)
    • “authorities” (7x)
    • “domain” (2x)
    • “charge”, “control”, “dominion”, “jurisdiction”, “liberty”, “powers” (1x each)

How exousia is used in the New Testament

  1. Matthew 7:29  – “for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

  2. Matthew 8:9  – “”For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.””

  3. Matthew 9:6, 8  – “”But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” … But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”

  4. Matthew 10:1  – “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”

  5. Matthew 21:23-24, 27  – “When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. … And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

  6. Matthew 28:18  – “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

  7. Mark 1:22, 27  – “They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. … They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.””

  8. Mark 2:10  – “”But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the paralytic,”

  9. Mark 3:15  – “and to have authority to cast out the demons.”

  10. Mark 6:7  – “And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;”

  11. Mark 11:28-29, 33  – “and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. … Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.””

  12. Mark 13:34  – “”It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.”

  13. Luke 4:6, 32, 36  – “And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. … and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. … And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.””

  14. Luke 5:24  – “”But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.””

  15. Luke 7:8  – “”For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.””

  16. Luke 9:1  – “And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.”

  17. Luke 10:19  – “”Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.”

  18. Luke 12:5, 11  – “”But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! … “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;”

  19. Luke 19:17  – “”And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'”

  20. Luke 20:2, 8, 20  – “and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” … And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” … So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.”

  21. Luke 22:53  – “”While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.””

  22. Luke 23:7  – “And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.”

  23. John 1:12  – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”

  24. John 5:27  – “and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.”

  25. John 10:18  – “”No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.””

  26. John 17:2  – “even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”

  27. John 19:10-11  – “So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.””

  28. Acts 1:7  – “He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;”

  29. Acts 5:4  – “”While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.””

  30. Acts 8:19  “saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.””

  31. Acts 9:14  “and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.””

  32. Acts 26:10, 12, 18  “”And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. … “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, … to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'”

  33. Romans 9:21  “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”

  34. Romans 13:1-3  “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;”

  35. 1 Corinthians 7:37  “But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.”

  36. 1 Corinthians 8:9  “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”

  37. 1 Corinthians 9:4-6, 12, 18  “Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? … If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. … What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”

  38. 1 Corinthians 11:10  “Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”

  39. 1 Corinthians 15:24  “then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”

  40. 2 Corinthians 10:8  “For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame,”

  41. 2 Corinthians 13:10  “For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.”

  42. Ephesians 1:21  “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

  43. Ephesians 2:2  “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

  44. Ephesians 3:10  “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”

  45. Ephesians 6:12  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

  46. Colossians 1:13, 16  “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, … For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

  47. Colossians 2:10, 15  “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; … When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

  48. 2 Thessalonians 3:9  “not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.”

  49. Titus 3:1  “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,”

  50. Hebrews 13:10  “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

  51. 1 Peter 3:22  “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

  52. Jude 1:25  “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

  53. Revelation 2:26  “‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;”

  54. Revelation 6:8  “I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

  55. Revelation 9:3, 10, 19  “Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. … They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. … For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.”

  56. Revelation 11:6  “These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.”

  57. Revelation 12:10  “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.”

  58. Revelation 13:2, 4-5, 7, 12  “And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. … they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. … It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. … He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.”

  59. Revelation 14:18  “Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.””

  60. Revelation 16:9  “Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.”

  61. Revelation 17:12-13  “”The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.”

  62. Revelation 18:1  “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.”

  63. Revelation 20:6  “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”

  64. Revelation 22:14  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.”

My observations and perspective

Exousia is by far, the most frequently used Greek word that conveys power, and authority.

In the gospels, exousia describe Jesus’ power and authority to forgive sins, cast out spirits, heal the sick Et al. It is often used by the Pharisees in their requests to know the source of Jesus’ power and authority. They ask insincerely, not wanting to really know, but because Jesus is treading on their turf. They were so caught up in envy and self-regard, that they missed God visiting them.

Christ says of this power and authority:

“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”. – Matthew 28:18

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13

“”Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” – John 19:11

Interesting here is that we see that all authority has been given to Christ, both in heaven and on earth. Not to be too simplistic here, but if he has it all, what is left for anyone else?

We’re also told that all whom received him were given the right to become children of God. This was through no one’s will but God’s. Further, the scripture tells us too that Jesus spoke that all earthly authority is granted by God and seemingly for a purpose.

Exousia is also used by Satan in the temptation in the wilderness to describe his power and authority on earth – which he offers to Jesus in exchange for worship.

In a few cases exousia describes civic authority (Herod, Pilate). In Acts, things start to get interesting.

The first instance of exousia in Acts 1:7 refers to God fixing the times and epochs by His own authority. Soon after, in the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:4), we see the apostles state

“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”.

Luke uses the same word to describe Ananias and Sapphira’s authority over their property that he uses to describe the authority that God has to affix times and epochs. While easily overlooked, this demonstrates a local church member having the highest level of authority over their own lives, at least in what they did with their possessions – even those promised to the church.

There is no mention of Ananias and Sapphira being church leaders, and in fact, they conspired to lie to the church. Nevertheless, the church leaders exclaim that Ananias and Sapphira, had the authority to decide to sell and how to use the funds.

The church leaders exerted no authority here other than the authority of the Word of God when Ananias and Sapphira lied. Every saint is able to admonish one another when violating God’s commands

A similar circumstance showing a very liberty-oriented view of personal authority seen again in 1 Corinthians 7:37 where Paul states that the subject of the verse (a man within the local church) “has authority over his own will” – specifically in the context of determinations about marriage. There was no authority of church leadership that could be imposed on the situation.

Paul uses the word several times later in Corinthians to speak of his rights/authority to take a Christian wife, eat and drink, and to refrain from working in order to proclaim the gospel. All of these rights are personal freedoms granted to every saint.

Paul frequently refers to the Law of Moses for the authority to refrain from working when devoting his time to the church.  This is not his own, but once again the authority of the Word of God (“Do not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” – Deuteronomy 25:4).

Paul can only command what the Scripture commands. He is not uniquely able to command such because of a role, but because the Word is an authority toward all.

In 2 Corinthians 10:8 and 13:10, Paul twice refers to an authority he has to build up and not tear down the local church. This is nowhere described in detail as being a set skills or responsibilities limited to church leadership. In fact, isn’t it Paul who told the Ephesians that every saint has the authority to build up the body of Christ?

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. …but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:7, 11-13, 15-16

It would be poor interpretation to conclude that only the ‘five-fold” gifts of Ephesians 4:11 were for the building up of the body. All saints are shown to have a role in that (“every joint supplies”, “each individual part”, etc).

One thing that is not present among the 102 instances of exousia is a single use of the word that clearly delineates, describes, explains, or teaches a practice of church leaders exercising power or authority over another within the church.

No  example exists of authority being associated with a church leader using authority that is  unique to leadership and not available to all saints.

One minor clarification… there does appear to be an authority of sorts pertaining to gifting or calling. These don’t appear to be authority over people, but authority for people – specifically to build up the church in a specific way.

I believe this idea is more of a commission.

For example, only an apostle would have ‘authority’ to build the church in an apostolic way, a shepherd in shepherding way, an evangelist in an evangelist way.

These do not appear to be assigned responsibilities, but natural areas of gifting that work because the power behind them is the Holy Spirit.

I see no reason or evidence to conclude that these are any sort of governing authority since there appear to be no instances of decisions being made that control the lives of others.

I don’t see any examples where such authority of role gives someone the right to authority over another within the church, but are similar to the authority to cast out demons, etc – the authority is spiritual and to accomplish spiritual purposes. (Ephesians 4)

I believe every saint has this authority, but according to their unique portion (1 Corinthians 13/14).

In conclusion, while authority is certainly demonstrated through these verses. There does not exist an example of hierarchical authority.

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